Indian American yogi Bikram Choudhury is rumored to have packed up his Beverly Hills, Calif., headquarters to head to the Lonavala hills in Maharashtra, India, after losing a $7.4 million sexual harassment lawsuit.
The speculation began after Mid-Day newspaper released an interview with Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, Choudhury’s former in-house attorney who won the lawsuit against him in January, quoting her as saying that the famed yoga maestro has shut down his U.S. operations.
“Bikram closed his international headquarters and flagship studio in Los Angeles following the verdict in the case, and has moved his teacher training to a resort in India at Aamby Valley City. In the U.S., we understand his teacher training numbers are significantly down, with less than 50 paid attendees," Jafa-Bodden told Mid-Day.
In her lawsuit against Choudhury – adored by the Hollywood/Bollywood crowd – Jafa-Bodden alleged that he touched her inappropriately and tried to get her to stay with him at a hotel suite. She said she was wrongfully terminated when she fended off his advances. Six other women have filed suit against Choudhury, alleging that he inappropriately touched them, asked for sexual favors, or forced sex on them.
Choudhury has denied all allegations.
The multi-millionaire, who owns several antique cars and homes around the world, has recently claimed he is now broke.
Amresh Sahay, from the sales department at Aamby Valley City – about 12 miles from Lonavala – told Mid-Day: "We have created a 15,000 sq-ft closed space, which can accommodate 500 people, where he conducts his sessions at a temperature of 42 degrees Celsius. The first one started on May 1 and will end on July 3."
Sahay added that Choudhury is also planning to set up a wellness center at the luxury township. "It will offer packages with 3-4 nights and 6-7 nights for people who want to rejuvenate, lose weight and improve their health."
Laju Choudhury, Bikram Choudhury’s daughter who also teaches yoga, posted a banner for the teachers’ training program in Aamby Valley to her Facebook page, and posted May 17 that she was returning home from India.
Through a receptionist at Bikram Yoga’s world headquarters in Beverly Hills, Monica Shigenaga, Choudhury’s executive assistant, told India-West she could not comment on the rumors of her employer leaving the country. “Bikram has been kicked around by the media. He doesn’t want to make any further comments,” she said, refusing to comment on whether his U.S. operations had shut down.
A housekeeper answering the phone at Choudhury’s residence in Beverly Hills told India-West she had not seen Choudhury in the six weeks since she came on to the job. Choudhury’s wife – Rajashree – who recently filed for divorce, was at home but could not come to the phone, according to the housekeeper.
India-West made phone calls to several of Choudhury’s studios in the U.S. At two studios, the numbers were disconnected, while answering machines picked up at three others.
Rajashree Choudhury, 20 years younger than her husband, filed for divorce last December amidst the sexual assault allegations against him. On her birthday this year – May 6 – Choudhury posted to her Facebook page: “I am working to move on with my life, in the midst of challenges. As I move forward with this next chapter in my life, I hope you will keep me in your thoughts and prayers.”
“I am still here and still practicing what I believe,” wrote Rajashree Choudhury, who co-founded Bikram Yoga.